Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, under fire from Democrats and a few Republicans for failing to hold former President Donald J. Trump accountable for his role in inciting the riot at the Capitol, vowed on Wednesday that the Justice Department would pursue wrongdoing “at any level,” adding that he would defend democratic institutions from attack and threats of violence.
Former President Donald Trump and his friends may have had a role in promoting the violence, according to Mr. Garland, who made the comments at the department’s headquarters. Mr. Garland is under pressure from Democrats to conduct a more rigorous investigation into this possibility.
The attorney general also made a veiled reference to opponents who have encouraged him to provide more information about the department’s investigation, particularly if investigators are looking into Mr. Trump’s business dealings.
He reiterated that the department would not release any information about its findings, despite the fact that investigators had issued 5,000 subpoenas and search warrants, inspected more than 20,000 hours of video footage, and sifted through an estimated 15 terabytes of data during their investigation. In response to criticism, he said, “I appreciate that this may not be the solution some are searching for.” “However, we will and must express ourselves via our work. Otherwise, the viability of our investigations and the civil freedoms of our people would be jeopardised.”
There has never been any substantial public indication from Mr. Garland as to whether or how vigorously the Department of Justice would be constructing a case against Mr. Trump or his aides, and it is unclear what charges they might be facing.
Last month, former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, said Mr. Garland would either “rise to the occasion or go down in history as one of the worst Attorneys General in this country’s history” if he did not prosecute Mr. Trump for actions he took before and during the attack. Mr. Garland was confirmed as Attorney General by President Barack Obama in January.
However, if federal prosecutors consider the potential of bringing a case against Mr. Trump or his associates, they would require evidence that would be strong enough to advance through the federal courts. In light of the fact that Congress has impeached three presidents but has never removed them from office, it is very improbable that such politically heated cases would pass through a system that has a higher threshold for conviction.
Given the largely public nature of the acts committed by Mr. Trump, as well as the lies he has continued to peddle since leaving office, experts warn that if the Justice Department is unable to respond publicly, Mr. Garland risks fostering the idea that presidents and their allies cannot be held accountable for behaviour that undermines democracy.
In the words of Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, “you don’t want a president and administration — present or previous — to be perceived as above the law by the people.” “Politics will have prevailed over the rule of law.”